If you have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or emphysema, you may not think there is much you can do to relieve your shortness of breath. But, did you know that rehabilitation can help you improve your everyday life?
As ordinary activities like climbing the stairs get harder, not only does your life with COPD or emphysema become quite limited, but you can also suffer from depression and/or anxiety. Pulmonary rehab can not only help you breathe easier, but can also improve your mood and general outlook on life.
What is Pulmonary Rehab?
Rehab for COPD and emphysema is a program of exercises that helps people improve their physical fitness. Breathing techniques and lifestyle strategies are also a big part of the program. But, the most important part of pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD and emphysema is the exercise.
Benefits of Pulmonary Rehab
Most people who complete a pulmonary rehab course are able to perform more activity without becoming short of breath, and their overall quality of life is improved. In a large analysis of many pulmonary rehab programs, almost all of the patients said that the rehab had improved their symptoms, including:
- Less shortness of breath
- More energy
- A greater sense of control over their condition
Is Rehab Painful?
Many people fear rehab because they think it will be painful, but therapists always work with their patients to determine the best course of action for that individual’s fitness level, pain tolerance, and other considerations. Your therapist would never want you to overdo it and, in fact, working with a therapist will ensure that you don’t work too hard, too fast.
Typical Pulmonary Rehab Exercises
Lower-body exercises: Exercises that center on leg workouts. Most of the proven benefits of pulmonary rehab come from studies in people doing leg exercises. Depending on your fitness level, you can be simply walking on a treadmill or doing more intense stair climbing.
Upper-body exercises: You need strong muscles in your upper body to support breathing, as well as your daily activities. You can exercise your arm and chest with activities like turning a crank against resistance, or repetitively lifting your arms against gravity.
Exercises for breathing muscles: Breathing through a mouthpiece against resistance during pulmonary rehab may increase the strength of the breathing muscles. These exercises may be helpful for people with very weak breathing muscles.
Strength training: Most pulmonary rehab exercises concentrate on building endurance. Adding strength training, like lifting weights, has been shown to increase muscle strength and bulk.
Pulmonary rehab can also include education for patients to help them better manage their COPD or emphysema. Your rehab team will want to ensure that you understand your medication treatment plan, and how to use oxygen therapy. If you still smoke, they will provide strategies for quitting smoking and staying quit. Your education will also include tips on eating a healthy diet.
Psychological Support in Pulmonary Rehab
If your COPD or emphysema is severe, you’re at risk for emotional problems such as depression and anxiety. These mood problems can make living your life more difficult and much less pleasurable. While pulmonary rehab can include relaxation training and other mood-modifying treatments, such as counseling, the regular exercise alone is often effective at reducing anxiety and lessening depression.
For more information on how you could benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation, contact Evergreen Health and Rehab today.